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Predictably unpredictable

by Mark Jardine 27 Jul 10:00 PDT
Emma Wilson (GBR) in the Women's RS:X on Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing Competition Day 2 © Sailing Energy / World Sailing

Tropical storm Nepartak was supposed to arrive on Tuesday in Japan, but when our man in Enoshima, Sail-World.com's New Zealand Editor Richard Gladwell, opened his curtains at the Hotel Wing International the breeze was relatively light, accompanied by a shower of rain.

'Snakes and Ladders' is the term that has been used to describe the sailing results so far at Tokyo 2020, which is hardly surprising when the inshore Enoshima and Kamakura courses are used in an offshore breeze.

The form book was thrown out of the window as the 49ers kicked off their racing. When you talk about favourites, then Pete Burling and Blair Tuke are the stand-out names: reigning Olympic champions, six-time 49er World Champions, two-time America's Cup winners. At Rio 2016 their worst race result was a seventh, which they discarded, but in the first race of Tokyo 2020 they finished twelfth in the 19-boat fleet...

In the ILCA 7 or Laser class (I'm confused as to what it's called at this Olympics) overall leader after six races Cypriote Pavlos Kontides looked like he was putting a consistent series together, only to record a 20th in race 5. He bookended this result with bullets and is still leading both with and without a discard.

There are classes where sailors are knocking in consistent results. In the ILCA 6 / Laser Radial class Denmark's Anne-Marie Rindom is at the top of the rankings. Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey had a stunning start to their 49er FX series with two bullets and a sixth.

The podium battle is developing nicely in the Women's RS:X with just two points separating France's Charline Picon, Great Britain's Emma Wilson and China's Yunxiu Lu. In the Men's RS:X Italy's Mattia Camboni leads, but Switzerland's Mateo Sanz Lanz and The Netherlands' Kiran Badloe are hot on his heels. The windsurfing is some must-watch racing, as long as you can access the TV coverage... something I'll come on to later.

The two America's Cup stars of the Finn fleet have work to do if they are to medal in the class's final outing in the Olympics. Defending champion Giles Scott scored two ninths, and New Zealand's Josh Junior scored a twelfth and tenth in the opening two races on Tuesday. The top three was identical in each race with Turkey's Alican Kaynar first, Hungary's Zsombor Berecz second and Spain's Joan Cardona Mendez third.

A couple of weeks ago I said it was going to be A strange Games at a strange time, and that the form book may as well go out the window, but the gusty and shifty conditions have made the racing extremely difficult, with those able to adapt quickly to the wacky races rising to the top.

TV or not TV?

In previous years we've been extremely lucky in the UK to have multiple streams available to watch from many different sports thanks to the BBC, but for this Games the IOC awarded the pan-European rights for the Olympics to Discovery. Ron Chakraborty, Lead Executive, Major Events at BBC Sport, wrote an apologetic letter about this online, but it does beg the question of how people will now 'stumble' upon coverage of sports they don't know, or usually get to watch.

I am strong believer that the Olympics should be free-to-air. As stated by the IOC 'The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.' To achieve this the coverage should be as accessible as possible, rather than requiring a short-term subscription.

Sadly, with this approach, the mainstream TV coverage will naturally gravitate towards sports that a country is good at, and sailing will probably only get a look-in at the Medal Race stage, apart from brief mentions in dispatches.

America's Cup merry-go-round

The New York Yacht Club stunned the America's Cup world this week by aligning with the Stars+Stripes syndicate for the 37th America's Cup. This leaves Hap Fauth and Roger Penske's American Magic, together with Skipper Terry Hutchinson, out on a limb. The logic of this can only make sense if a big-money backer has approached the club, saying they want to start with a clean slate.

There is no doubt the American Magic syndicate will find a club for their campaign, which does at least mean there should be two US-based entries for the next Cup, wherever that might be held. If the rumour-mill is to be believed then the current front-runners are Cork, Ireland and Valencia, Spain. As always with AC rumour, this should be taken with a pinch of salt, a dash of pepper and probably a splash of vinegar to boot.

And the grass roots...

When I'm not making sure the news from Enoshima is published as quickly as possible, I'm trying to both sail and help with the junior racing and activities at Keyhaven Regatta Week. It's being immense fun, and we had our own shifty and gusty conditions for the three races on Sunday, where I was sailing Frankenlaser II (sadly, the first Frankenlaser has been retired after developing a hull crack between the daggerboard case and mast foot which I deemed beyond repair).

The juniors are always chomping at the bit to get on the water, with some already giving the adults a run for their money in the main racing. Many clubs around the world have their story of a young sailor who has risen through the ranks to the Olympic level, and I can think of a couple of locals I've seen who could make the grade, but ensuring they have fun when they're young will surely help them along their path in sailing, whatever route that takes.

For all those who help out with junior and youth programs at their local clubs, especially those who introduce non-sailing families to the water, I extend a big 'thank you'. Sailing is a stronger, richer and more diverse sport thanks to you. Who knows, one day you could be saying 'I taught that Olympian or America's Cup star to sail'. The goal should always be for them to have fun, but some with that competitive instinct and talent will rise to the top!

All-in-all, sailing news this week is predictably unpredictable, but we'll make sure you can read all about it on Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com.

Mark Jardine
Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com Managing Editor

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